“THE SIMPSONS” SCREENING AND THE “EL CANTANTE” AFTER PARTY: A NIGHT OUT WITH MUSTO - Tuesday, 8/21/2007 8:33 PM
My darling Musto invited me to accompany him to a screening and another movie’s after party. The screening was for “The Simpsons” and the after party was for “El Cantante”, which Musto had already seen. It all sounded great because I’m not enough of a “Simpsons” fan to have ever thought to pay to see the LONG version and, even though I’m a big Marc Anthony fan and would have wanted to see THAT movie (I’m also a fan of Hector Lavoe’s work, whose bio “El Cantante” is based upon), I was sure it would play well on TV some other time. Besides, I already knew the story of Lavoe’s messed-up life.
The party was slated for Cipriani 42nd St., so it was certain to be lavish and filled with food and drink. Of course, WHY it was at an Italian joint and not at a Puerto Rican establishment was a bit puzzling. Where’s Jimmy Rodriguez when you need him? Seriously… is he still on the run?
The only problem with accompanying Mustie on a night out is trying to figure out how I can look glamorous and still ride my bicycle. This is not only a fashion issue (If you really don’t have anything to take up your time right now, please consult the treatise on bicycles that directly precedes this for details), but also a hair and makeup concern. Even if I don’t wear a helmet (BAD girl!), I do not have the type of hair that looks FABULOUS when wind-blown…it just looks wind-blown. And, when it comes to makeup, there’s nothing remotely attractive about eyeliner and mascara that have been blasted by the elements… especially on a hot summer’s night. Humidity sets foundation, shadow, blush and bronzer beautifully, however it is ruinous to those dark bits and lines that have to be precise and stay in place.
My concessions were to wear Vans & carry a shoe bag with some fancy sandals in it for changing after I got off the bike and before I entered the party and vise-versa.
I met Mustie at the theater. There was a line all the way down the block because it was a “public” screening. Luckily, there was a press list, so we just breezed in. Even though there was a “Reserved” section, we found better seats outside that ghetto. Oddly, the better seats usually are outside the “Reserved” section. Maybe that practice is actually some sort of subversive P.R. anarchy at work (“We serve you, but we hate you and will find petty little ways to fuck with the comfort and convenience of your lives”)?
As for the movie… anyone who really cared about “The Simpsons” immediately saw it when it first came out. That’s why it shattered some sort of box office record (doesn’t EVERYTHING lately?). For anyone else, I would recommend that they wait until it comes out on DVD or TV. It did not have the creativity of the iconic “South Park” feature length offering. In fact, it was just like watching a “Simpsons” marathon of four TV shows built around a central (and not too riveting) theme. I had to force myself to remain focused on the story, which is not a good thing. After all this time and with all their talent and genius, I can’t understand how they could have come up with something so ho-hum (or, d’um?). I love how journalists have tried to explain the sharp box office drop of this movie as the result of the fans having already seen it. If it was any good, it would have kept going on word-of-mouth attracting those who weren’t already fans. Isn’t that the point of making a movie from a TV show: That it will either stand on its own as a separate creative entity or increase the fan base for the original format?
Off we sped on our bikes to Cipriani’s. We had to stick to the main streets because this was just after Lexington Ave. exploded. Riding along 42nd St. is not our idea of fun, but wadda ya gonna do?
We arrived, I changed and up to the door we strolled. Unfortunately, we were advised that there was no PR person available with the press list because “El Cantante” had started ½ hour late. This is not unusual. When it comes to big premieres, one always has to factor in the need for the bigger stars to be the last to arrive (EXCITEMENT!) and, additionally/perversely, for them to have to spend the most time being photographed and interviewed.
We were pointed to a red rope behind which two photographers were camped. We were told that the reason so few members of the press corps were there was because they had to get their photos wired sooner-than-later, so they just used the ones they got at the screening and called it a night. Of course, if the turn-out at the screening had been over-whelmed with star power, they would have rushed over to the party. Seeing only two photographers was not a good sign.
Luckily, the PR girl arrived soon after, so we were granted access to the huge empty confines of Cipriani 42nd St. Mustie and I couldn’t have been happier. All the food stations and bars were set up and there were available tables that were not designated as “Reserved”. Unlike screenings, the reserved tables at parties really are the best. Nevertheless, if you arrive early enough, this is not a problem. We planted ourselves at a table near the entrance so that we could see anyone who entered, which was a plus for Mustie, since he needed this party for an upcoming column. There are certain months that are deadly to writers of daily and weekly columns and August is definitely one of them. In addition, this table was conveniently situated between a food station and bar. How divine! We were SO hungry! In order to properly concentrate on a party, it really helps to have your food and drink needs satisfied as quickly as possible.
In regards to filling one’s gut, another reason to arrive early is that the hors d’oeuvres patrol is fired up and hasn’t developed an attitude yet. They are very anxious to get rid of the contents of their trays because this not only lightens the weight of the tray, but it gives them a chance to stroll through the room on their way back to the kitchen and check out the scene unencumbered. Later, the servers indulge in a myriad of mind-fucks… like floating through the room with the trays held so high, no one can reach the food. Hey, being a cater waiter is a horrible job one has to endure before one’s acting or modeling career kicks in. Until then, who can deny them the need to passive-aggressively kick a little butt? Of course, the other side of this argument is that someone should not take a job unless they are devoted to doing it as well as it should be done. There really are other starving actor and model-wanna-bes out there who would be happy to get the gig to pay their rents. And what did the poor innocent attendees ever do to deserve the bad treatment?
The appetizers were allocated for plates so tiny that once you got one slice of smoked salmon on them, everything else (including the additions you needed for the salmon) had to be perilously piled on top like a food version of Jenga. Luckily, the main courses were soon unveiled and we stocked up on pastas and other stuff on rationally sized plates. I hadn’t been at one of the Ciprianis in so long, I had forgotten how mediocre the food was. But, when you’re hungry…
Two women asked if they could sit on the other two seats at our table. They were fabulous looking Latinas “of a certain age”, dressed in semi-formalwear that were cut up to here and down to there and snug as could be. Thank the lord I was showing some cleavage or I would have felt like I was either being disrespectful to my secondary sexual characteristics or was being an in-your-face Lumber Jill. Neither of these is particularly embraced in the Latin community…despite the once-upon-a-time hipness of Albita and Ingrid Casares. And what ever happened to THEM?
Our new tablemates were SO great! It turned out that one was married to the lead singer in the Fania All-Stars. She said that he couldn’t be at the premiere because the group was on tour. We never got her name, but she and the other woman kept getting paid homage to all night. “There’s Johnny Pacheco!” The Fania wife trilled, pointing to a handsome man with a mop of elegantly coiffed white hair who was walking slowly by, assisted by a cane. “Do you know who he is?” I assured her that I did know who the musical director and flautist for the original All-Stars, infamous bandleader and equally iconic producer was.
So, I asked the ladies what they thought of the film. They were lovely enough to attempt to soften the fact that they were disappointed in it, but finally admitted that their real problem with it was that it emphasized the darker elements of Lavoe’s life too much…meaning the drugs and AIDS. What I wanted to know was why Marc Anthony’s voice had been pitched an octave lower than he normally sings and whether this was my imagination? I had heard the sound track a few days before and I’ve heard Lavoe and I don’t recall Lavoe’s voice being pitched this low either. Then again, with old recordings, it’s sometimes hard to know what someone’s voice really sounded like because the recording tapes could have been running at an inexact speed. They agreed with what I said and that they too had noticed this pitch manipulation and had no idea why this was done. Well, that did not settle THAT.
The star power…as I assumed… was underwhelming. I didn’t recognize anyone, besides former “Soprano” Federico Castelluccio, who is in the movie. After Musto interviewed Lavoe’s family, at whose table Pacheco was seated, we only decided to stick around to see who was going to perform on the huge stage that was set up with mics and instruments. Musto had originally thought it might be the Fania All-Stars, but since they were on tour… that settled THAT.
We both agreed that it would be great if it was Marc Anthony. No matter how many times I’ve seen him, it is never too many…as long as he’s doing his Latin music. His English repertoire has always been far too generically schmaltzy for my tastes. The melodies and lyrics are so banal, you can always anticipate the next note and the next word or sentiment. Yech!
I was one of the first people to interview Anthony for non-Latin publications, so I have a history with him. I kept trying to get “Paper” and “Interview” interested in him, but they weren’t until he starred in “Capeman” on Broadway. “This one guy sells out Madison Square Garden all by himself!” I kept beseeching them. “He’s MASSIVE!” They weren’t buying….until Paul Simon gave him that part. I understood: He needed to be attached to a project that had relevance to the readers of “Paper” and “Interview”. That’s just the way the magazine game goes.
Unfortunately, “Capeman” was not one of Anthony’s finest moments. Also, unfortunately, the first time I interviewed him (for “Paper”), it was backstage at “Capeman” and Anthony had just had a root canal! He was distant and cold and so lacking in manners, I was forced to sit on the damned floor while he sat in a nice comfy chair looking down on me. I kept thinking, “I don’t think that this is the way your mother raised you to act to women.” And this is the guy whose repertoire consists almost entirely of love songs? Ha! On a more understanding note, I chose to assume that this insensitive behavior was due to whatever medications he was on to get him through the misery of root canal plus having to perform in such a condition.
When I interviewed him soon thereafter for “Interview”, It was an entirely different man. He picked me up at home in his big Rolls or Bentley…I can’t remember which… and we sped off to a midtown Subway to conduct the interview because he was hungry. And, believe me, that little skinny thing can EAT! It was really hilarious watching the disbelief of other customers that Marc Anthony was chowing down in a midtown Subway. Little girls kept walking back and forth past the table and he was really sweet with them when they asked for autographs and photos. He was a great interview THAT time: I concluded that the change was because he was feeling better and/or trusted me.
I ran into him again, by accident, when he was doing a photo shoot for “In Style” on the roof of a friend’s showroom in the Fashion District. “There’s some guy named Marc Anthony being photographed upstairs. Do you know who he is?” I was asked. I raced up to the roof. The magazine people were really rude to me until Marc finally saw me (his eyesight sucks) and beckoned me over for a hug and kiss. I was wearing all leather, which made him stand back at first, then reach out with a finger and touch my shoulder, while making a hissing sound. “Hot!” He exclaimed. We giggled.
I had even taken Musto with me to one of Anthony’s Madison Square Garden Latin extravaganzas. Musto had been amazed at the scene and how great Anthony was.
Actually, one of the funnier performances of Anthony’s that I’ve witnessed was when he performed at a “New York” magazine party where everyone totally ignored him and kept talking to each other throughout his performance. This was either during “Capeman” or even a bit before or afterwards. They had no idea who he was and, therefore, were SO rude. I saw a similar fate befall Usher when he performed at a CFDA after party. It’s incredibly amusing when you know how hot someone is and you watch them be dissed by those who think they’re so on top of shit, yet are utterly clueless until way past the point. The fashion flock is notorious for this: They are SO lame when it comes to music. I was once asked to do music for a Donatella Versace fashion show in Milan and I was told that she only wanted avant garde music “…like U2”. “U2?” I blurted out. “U2 isn’t avant garde! They were in 1980, but how can they be considered avant garde NOW when they fill STADIUMS?” Needless to say, I didn’t get the job.
Anyway, back to the “El Cantante” after party…
Suddenly, the musicians took their places on the stage and someone announced, “Ladies and Gentlemen…Marc Anthony!”…or similar words to that effect.
Out he bounced and WOW! Fabulous! I could not keep my feet and hips still…and I’m very very sorry for that visual. The one hilariously discomforting moment was when I recognized a certain bunch of high society bullies shove their way through everyone having a great time grooving in the center of the room, being totally dismissive of anyone else’s space while radiating an aura of smug entitlement on their fleshy pasty faces. I would name names, but let’s just say that their faces pop up a significant amount of times on this website. Happily, after the initial aftershocks of this posse’s bad bad manners, everyone settled in and continued to party. (If you were at this party and you behaved this way…SHAME ON YOU!)
After about three songs, Anthony informed us that he was supposed to leave the stage at that point, but he wasn’t. Everyone cheered at his largess. I loved the theatrics and manipulatory nature of this action, but not for one second did we believe this was a truthful action because Anthony is far too much about control. Besides, if these songs were just added on because of the joy of the moment, how was it that the band was so perfectly rehearsed? Loved it! And it was a nice touch when J-Lo siddled over to the stage for a hug with her hubby. Naturally, she looked gorgeous.
I loved this night. Mustie and I went out to our carriages, I changed shoes and, despite having to ride on the dreaded Second Ave. because of the aforementioned Lexington Ave. explosion, we made it back to our homes through the chilled- down summer night’s air. Delicious!
Thank you Mustie.